Coalition for Networked Information
Institution-Wide Information Strategies
GOVERNANCE AND STRATEGIC PLANNING
The University of Memphis
James I. Penrod
VP Information Systems & CIO
The University of Memphis has begun a major effort to implement an information strategy that will move the institutionto a position of leadership among its regional peers by the turnof the century. The strategy has been instituted through a declarationin the strategic plan, the establishment of an executive levelchief information officer (CIO) position, the beginning of threemajor information technology initiatives, the development of auniversity-wide information technology (IT) governance structure,and the implementation of an IT strategic planning process.
The University of Memphis Strategic Plan 1995-2000:Defining Excellence references some seven goals that directlypertain to the importance of information or information technologyas a strategic resource with one focused on specific advances:(Goal 6) “Take the lead in using computing and telecommunicationsin higher education and the community.” (See http://www.people.memphis.edu/~pressweb/prsadmin/a_plan/stratpln/stratpln.html.)
The university president established a new division of InformationSystems in 1995 and created the position of Vice President forInformation Systems & CIO. The new unit is responsible fornetworking, academic and administrative computing, and telecommunications.As chief information officer, the vice president also has responsibilityfor the development of all information policy for the institution.
The new IS organization was formed from units that had previouslyreported to either the Vice President for Business & Financeor the Provost where staff were sanctioned with mid-manager orbelow levels of authority. The need to restructure and redirectthe organization was evident. Positions have been redefined andexperienced senior level administrators have been brought intothe organization. Learning organization principles have been introducedinto the division through the planning process with an emphasison new management principles and practices and on client-orientedservice. A team-based organizational has been studied and a pilot project with three designated teams to determine the readiness of the unit for such a venture will be conducted beginning in July 1998.
After successfully completing a national search for the VP/CIO,the initiation of three major multi-year information technologyrelated projects were begun. The first is to complete the basicnetwork infrastructure for the university by connecting all officesand a proportion of classrooms and dormitories to the campus networkand the Internet. The second project is to develop an integrated,standardized academic system consisting of computing laboratories,classrooms, and faculty offices. The third initiative is to significantly decrease maintenance of the administrative system of the university while enhancing it with World Wide Web (WWW) based access and eventually move to a relational database environment. The first undertaking was to carefully plan for what would be done over the nextfew years.
An IT strategic planning process was developed and initiated resultingin 1996 with the first U of M IT Strategic Plan. Thisparticipative process links IT initiatives directly to strategicinstitutional goals and the university’s budgeting cycle of availablefiscal resources. The plan identifies certain measurable, timebounded objectives for which various IS managers are held responsibleand accountable.
An IT governance structure has been put into place with an IT Policy and Planning Council and Academic and Administrative Advisory Committees.The IT Policy and Planning Council is one of three such councils designatedby the President with decision-making authority at The Universityof Memphis and has now been in existence for almost two years.
B. Problem Statement
With its primary location in the geographic center of the city,The University of Memphis is the flagship institution of the sixfour-year universities within the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)System of higher education. The campus of approximately 20,200students is ethnically, socially, and economically diverse. Thismid-south, regional, urban, doctoral granting institution is withina relatively short commute of 1.5 million residents of west Tennessee,north Mississippi, east Arkansas, and the Missouri bootheel. Theinstitution has two campuses and a growing number of other locationswhere courses are offered. It is made up of nine schools and collegesand five Centers of Excellence. The University currently employsabout 2400 faculty and staff members. Educational and serviceneeds are provided within an annual state and non-state budgetof approximately $202 million.
In 1997, Dr. V. Lane Rawlins began his seventh year as UniversityPresident. Several new senior executive officers and administratorshave joined the institution since his inauguration and work togetherin a collegial and collaborative style for the betterment of theorganization. The addition of strong executive support and leadershipalong with experienced new academic leaders and staff are allowingneeded changes to occur at a more rapid pace than would otherwisebe realized.
The institution is lagging regional and national peers inIT infrastructure and consequently in usage — particularly insome academic areas. There was a serious lack of direct state fundingto support institutional IT requirements and the need exists forinternal restructuring of IT financial support. The developmentof both an operational and linked capital budget is a step inthe right direction. Students have historically paid a very modesttechnology access fee (TAF) of up to $15 per semester. Beginning in the Fall of 1997, an increase of this fee up to $50 per semester was approved(This increased annual TAF funds from about $700,000 to $2,000,000.). Although this helped substantially, it is not adequate to meet the ongoing needs of an academic IT infrastructure with requisite support; thus, future increases will continue to be sought.
The U of M Strategic Plan 1995-2000 calls for aconcerted effort to enhance the overall image and regional statureof the institution. For a variety of reasons, the university hasan image that does not match the quality of programs and offeringsthat are available in certain disciplines. Responses are beingdevised to address this, including the advancement of an informationstrategy.
In general, there is increasing competition for good studentsand faculty in higher education. This situation is heightenedat The U of M since the university has experienced flat enrollment during the mid-1990’s. The institution is bordered by two sisterstates, yet it does not have legislative approval to waive out-of-statetuition to students from those states; however, this advantageis available to some other Tennessee higher education institutionsand to Tennessee students who elect to attend certain universitiesin adjoining states. The result is a substantially reduced diameterof a “level field” recruiting area. Expanded efforts to offer off-campus classesand to recruit new non-traditional students are underway. Obviously,an information strategy is important to such efforts.
The current COBOL, flat-file, administrative system is heavilymodified, requires extraordinary maintenance efforts, and it isfunctional-unit based; therefore, few cross-functional optimizationefforts to improve processes have been made. There is no integratedinstitutional database, nor are there data access tools that canassist in providing decision-making information to executive officers,administrators, faculty, or staff who need them. It is imperative thatthere be access to decision-making information to meet this greatinstitution-wide need.
There is a strategic need for greater IT usage in the classroomwhich can only come about by providing increased IT support inthe form of infrastructure, hardware, software, maintenance, labs,smart classrooms, technical training, and IT staff at the academicunit level. The university has recently established a Center forAcademic Excellence and modest grants are being awarded to facultyfor innovative uses of technology to enhance instruction. Projectsthat utilize the web for course delivery were specifically targetedduring the last grant cycle.
The President and his administrative team are oriented towarda decision making style that calls for those nearest the problemto be empowered to solve it. As an economist, he is perhaps moredata driven than has been true of prior presidents; thus, thereis a strategic need for accessible information and data distributedto far more people across the university.
This points to a strategic need for a more easily maintained,flexible and responsive administrative system that can supplytimely data and information. Leadership is being provided by Systems and Computer Technology (SCT) Corporation, a university partner, to transition to minimally modified software utilizing web and interactive voice response (IVR) based front-ends along with a client-server based hardware platform. A RDBMS based datamart will then be created to allow greater and easier access to information. Cross-functionalproject teams have been identified to analyze and implement thevarious administrative modules and are directed to investigateadministrative process redesign initiatives as part of that effort.The necessary change will be difficult, will not come about easily,and in some cases may be met with resistance. The administrativeteam has, however, reached agreement on this course as the bestavailable option for the institution and will see that it is carriedout successfully.
The university is dedicated to expanding its regionaland national leadership and recognition in selected academic disciplines.The university’s five Centers of Excellence have resulted in prominentand renown academic leadership and are introducing its studentpopulation to a growing number of quality educational opportunities.
The University of Memphis must build and maintain a competitiveIT infrastructure down to the desktop, and it has begun significantstrides in this direction. However, an on-going stream of fundsmust be identified to support that growing infrastructure andthe cost of its maintenance. The IS organization needs to learnhow to become more effective as well as more efficient. Interventionthresholds for circumstances where the same or similar problemsare reoccurring must be developed. The entire IT organizationacross campus must learn to work better in teams and share individualknowledge so that a reservoir of “corporate” knowledgeis rapidly created.
Information is increasing exponentially and both the academicand administrative sectors of the university must have accessto appropriate and timely data. Improved decision making capabilitieswill result by furnishing timely and easy to obtain data and information(along with tools with which individuals can manipulate data onan ad hoc basis).
The university will continue to build and augment an administrativesystem that provides direct access to students, faculty and stafffor designated actions and information. To give The U of M a competitiveadvantage in today’s ever-competitive marketplace, superior servicemust be offered to our staff, faculty, and student clientele.A flexible, easily maintained and responsive administrative systemis crucial to the accomplishment of that mission.
All the above must be coupled with keeping institutional unitsin sync and progressing to gain the needed competitive advantage.Coupling the IT planning process to the institutional strategicplan ensures the necessary cross-functional alignment. Additionally,linking the IT planning process to budget allocation helps ensurethe development of tactical alliances between centralized anddistributed IT resources in support of the campus goals and plannedpurpose.
In an attempt, then to respond to the above general institutionalgoals, The University of Memphis IWIS initiative focuses on ITgovernance and strategic planning as a decision-making process.The specific IWIS goals include efforts:
- To identify “best information practices” at otherinstitutions which might be adapted for The University of Memphis.
- To share with other institutions successful information strategiesand ideas that are utilized here.
- To formally document advantages and shortcomings of the ITgovernance structure with respect to decision-making and implementationconcerning strategic initiatives at The U of M.
- To seek new and innovative ways to develop and successfullyimplement information strategies that furthers the mission ofthe institution.
- To continue to modify and improve the IT strategic planningprocess at the university.The evolution and application of an institution-wide informationstrategy will bring change to this or any other university. Itis our belief that the change will be positive — but not accomplishedwithout difficulty. The closing words of Jennifer James in herrecent book Thinking in the Future Tense sum it up quitewell.
We will pay a price for the current technological, economic, andcultural changes because of their magnitude, but we will alsoreap rich rewards when new contracts are finally in place. Wewill find new excitement in our work as well as in our relationships.We will follow our leaders with more confidence and become betterleaders ourselves. We will lead by growing closer to each other.We will move forward by going deeper.
Major financial resources have been committed to the various segmentsof the information strategy at The University of Memphis. Theoverall networking project involves about four million dollarsin capital expenditures and an increase of approximately $200,000in annual operating expenses. The administrative systems projectrequires almost two million dollars in new hardware and softwareand an initial increase of $90,000 annually in operating costs(some of that will be eliminated in two years when all old hardwareis retired). The academic systems project will initially be fundedwith an annual increase of $1,300,000 to the operating budget,but it is anticipated that an additional $2,000,000 annually isneeded to fully accomplish our goals. Thus some $6,000,000 incapital expenditures and about $3,600,000 in annual operatingexpenditures are already allocated or are being sought.
These figures do not take into consideration personnel costs thatare being shifted from other areas into information technologyrelated positions in the schools, colleges, and administrativeunits. It is estimated that the creation or designation of suchpositions between FY96 and FY97 totaled more than $300,000 annuallyand that number is expected to increase somewhat each year forthe next few years although at a much slower rate.
Financial practices to address the costs are varied. The universitymaintains a “Renewal and Replacement” fund to coverannual capital costs, the Information Systems Division contributesover $1,000,000 per year to it, and the fund accumulates untilit is needed. Beginning with FY98, there is an annual capitalbudget projected for three years that is “refreshed”each year. The current year capital budget will be approved atthe same time that the operating budget is approved. Each yearthe university requires budget units to submit 97%, 100% and 105% budgetsalong with justifications of how additional funds would be usedto further institutional goals, and what would be eliminated ifcuts were requested. The Budget Committee then may shift allocationsto units that are more in tune with priorities from those lessin sync with The U of M Strategic Plan. Many times shiftsare approved within a budget unit, i.e., to eliminate a positionno longer needed or one considered less important and create anIT local support provider (LSP) position.
The university led an effort for The Tennessee Board of Regents(TBR) System to increase technology access fees (TAF) from a maximumof $15 per semester to a cap of $50 per semester effective Fall’97. This accounts for the additional available funds for academicusage. A TAF of up to $100 per semester will be sought in thefuture to bring the university in line with such fees at peerinstitutions. When the institution achieves this level of fundingit is anticipated that at least one million dollars annually willbe directly allocated to credit hour producing academic unitsfor IT uses determined at the college or departmental levels.Annual allocations to schools and colleges will be based uponyear-to-year justified needs, approved by the Budget Committee.
The Information Systems Division is two years into a program thatwill almost completely redefine the entire unit and most sub-units.Close to one third of existing positions have already been redefinedand every time an opening occurs the position is examined in lightof projected future needs before being filled. Everyone in theorganization has undergone extensive training focusing on “LearningOrganization” principles as well as training and educationrelated to the new technologies being introduced. The intent isto significantly change the organizational culture over a five-yearperiod. All annual pay increases (when available) are when possible,performance based and personnel evaluations are linked to thelearning organization principles as well as to objectives in theannual IT U of M Strategic Plan. (See http://www.memphis.edu/ispages/index.html.) A “rewards structure”has just been approved to provide further motivation to acceleratethe required adaptive change. (See http://www.people.memphis.edu/~vpcio/award.html.)
The university is nearing completion of a process to significantlyreshape the entire human resources job description/compensationsystem. Part of the process involves a realignment of salariesin relation to the job market. Although it will be eased into,the new system eventually should be helpful to the institutionalinformation strategy. An advisory committee of IT related incumbentshas also been formed to work with HR specialists in ranking ITpositions across the campus to ensure equity and to help buildan institutional career path for individuals.
Academic and administrative unit heads have been asked to createLSPs (utilizing their own funding) as the university moves towarda model for the IS Division to focus on infrastructure and trainingneeds and for distributed units to provide direct faculty andstaff support. As noted above, excellent progress was made towardthis in the past year.
Finally, the make-up of the IT Policy and Planning Council must be mentionedin regard to how strategy impacts human resources. The council initially consists of associate provosts and vice presidents, chairs ofIT advisory committees, representatives of student government,faculty, and staff organizations, the executive assistant to thepresident for budget and planning, two deans, the university librarian,and the CIO. The membership, therefore, was believed to be broad enough to makegood institutional decisions; and by the members’ individual roles, have great influence on how resulting decisions were carriedout in practice. As noted later in this paper the membership was subsequently expanded. (See page 13 for discussion and http://www.memphis.edu/ispages/itpolicy/.)
Policies and Practices.
Policies and practices play a major role in the implementationof information strategy at The University of Memphis. This isthe primary reason for the creation of the IT Policy and Planning Council.The university president expects council members operating asa decision-making body not only to establish policy and approvecampus-wide standards and practices, but also to take an activepart in ensuring the implementation and on-going operation ofsuch directives.
Since its creation about two years ago, the IT Policy and Planning Councilhas approved the following: (1) the first two U of M IT StrategicPlans; (2) six broad based, institution-wide, three to fiveyear strategies for the implementation of information technology;(3) awards the past two academic years of grants to faculty forinnovative uses of technology in the classroom; (4) a policy for”acceptable use of university IT resources” for allinstitutional constituents; (5) a policy regarding off-campusInternet access; (6) university-wide IT hardware and softwarestandards; (7) a policy for a universal Email identification nomenclaturewhich will lead to a common Email system; (8) replacement of anew telecommunications switch completing a fully digital system;(9) endorsement of a partnership with the SCT Corporation to transition to a new strategy for implementation of administrative systems; (10) a process forthe prioritization of the order of classrooms to be connectedto the campus network; and (11) the first SCT annual work planfor systems development (now incorporated within The Uof M IT Strategic Plan); and (12) a process to establish priorities for the use of TAF and other university funds allocated for instructional IT uses. (See http://www.memphis.edu/ispages/is.htm for IT policies and standards.)The Council has additionally provided input into Executive Officerdecisions to: define operational guidelines for council members;define a process to determine institutionally beneficial modificationsto the new administrative system or to administrative processes;appoint a primarily faculty-based working group to draft a white-paperon IT instructional resources needed for 21st centuryoperation; and develop a set of metrics to measure various aspectsof performance by the IS Division; and appoint a research faculty committee to prepare a white-paper regarding Internet2 membership for the University.
The organizational culture of the long time IS staff and manyother university administrative staff presented challenging obstaclesto some aspects of the new information strategy. The most significanthad to do with the new strategy for implementation of the administrativesystem. In the past, subsystems (Financial Records, Student Records,Financial Aid, etc.) had been installed and operated with primaryconsideration for the main functional office responsible for thatparticular module. This sometimes resulted in major modificationsto the baseline code to “fit” the operation of the unit.This, in turn, resulted in dedication of unusually large programmingresources to on-going maintenance. It also created a circumstancewhere major decisions about the subsystem were usually made withinthe functional “silo” then discussed with others. Thus,the subsystems were optimized for functional units. The new strategycalled for much greater integration between the subsystems, forfewer code modifications, for more joint consultation prior todecisions, and for optimization of “The University”system rather than of any subsystem.
After lengthy and at times animated discussions among groups rangingfrom the executive officers to subsets of the IT Advisory Committeesthe following solution to find common ground for moving aheadwas determined. The President issued a letter to the universitydeclaring the general strategy to be followed. Then the executiveofficers agreed that specific decisions about modifications tocode, adjustments in administrative processes, etc. should bedelegated to cross-functional design and implementation teamsconsisting of individuals directly responsible for providing timelyand quality service to students. Each team consists of representativesfrom the primary functional unit, secondary administrative units,the systems development unit, ultimate client offices, and a softwareexpert from the vendor. There are six subsystem teams and twoadditional technical resource teams that will work with each teamin the design of the database, security issues, etc. Each teamhas functional office and technical co-leaders; these individualstogether make up a management team with overall coordination responsibilities.
As is the case in many organizations, existing technology, system-wideguidelines, and costs of potential new technology all played arole in determining the options available in looking toward futureneeds. Existing technology was perhaps most important in decisionsrelated to upgrading the telecommunications network where oneLucent digital switch had been purchased two years before anda second was needed to replace an older analog switch. System-wideguidelines and costs came into play in moving to a new administrativesystem. The TBR System had recently signed a blanket five-yearagreement with SCT for software and services related to SCT’sIA Plus administrative software. This provided a strong inclinationand substantial cost benefits to stay with the SCT IA Plus system augmented by new web products and eventually a RDBMS based datamart. There were more viable options available for the data networkexpansion and for creating a distributed academic computing environmentthan in the previously mentioned projects. Decisions in theseareas were related to cost and perceived effectiveness of thesolution.
The technology selected for The U of M infrastructure is as follows.The campus backbone is a fiber based Cisco switched network withAsante hubs and a CableTron Spectrum management system. Localarea networks (LANs) are Novell with a growing number of MicrosoftNT servers. The telecommunications system runs off of two LucentG3V4 digital switches. Desktop computers are primarily Dell withsome Macintoshes; the prevailing workstation is Sun. The standardacademic computing server has not yet been selected but thereare a number of Digital Alphas, some Suns and one large Tricord. A varietyof site license software is available for academic uses includingthe Microsoft suite, ClarisWorks, Corel Suite, SPSS, SAS, Mathematica,ORACLE, Eudora Pro, etc. The new administrative system platformwill include Digital Alphas and IBM RS6000s running AIX. The primary software willbe the complete SCT IA Plus set of modules with the PLUS2000 graphical user interface (GUI) and WWW interfaces.
The GUI and web interfaces were selected because of the informationstrategy. Additional data query tools will soon be selected. Thethird IBM RS6000 will serve as a data warehouse repository dueto the information strategy. An Octel V3 voice mail system wasinstalled with the second digital switch in response to the strategy.A Periphonics interactive voice response system also provideseasy touch-tone telephone access to a variety of data from theadministrative system to address the information strategy. Allof these provide good examples of technologies relevant to ourstrategy.
Mix and Balance of Resources.
With an information strategy as broad-based as The Universityof Memphis’ people, technology, money, and institutional policyand practice all must be part of the implementation. The mostsignificant resource, from our perspective, is people. Peopleformulate the strategy, people make the decisions leading to theallocation of other resources, people either support or hinderexecution of the strategy, and people are assigned direct responsibilityfor assuring a successful implementation.
The trade-offs involved in any complex strategy are many. As alreadynoted existing technology, costs, and prior decisions (sometimesbeyond the campus level) significantly impacted options and finaldecisions. Without question some things would have been very differentif there had been a “clean slate” from which to workor if more money had been immediately available.
In addition to the factors previously discussed, the rate anddegree of change on the part of existing staff is necessary tosuccessfully implement the strategy and was also an importantconsideration. It is felt that the limits of change are likelybeing pushed with the adopted strategy. Anything more aggressivecould have gone beyond that which was realistically possible,given constraints that would have been very difficult to alter.
Therefore, existing circumstances, the amount of required change,and costs were the most significant factors in trade-offs thatThe U of M had to consider. General observations are difficultto make since the combination of important factors is quite likelyto be determined on a case-by-case basis. It is crucial to assessthe current situation, determine where the institution would liketo be, and then outline the overriding parameters that definethe outer boundaries under which decisions must be made. The trade-offs,then, may well be to address reality as it can be best determinedrather than attempt to answer the question of “What is thebest possible solution?”
Although The University of Memphis is two years intothe implementation of its information strategy, at least anothertwo years will be required to ultimately judge the degree of success.Nevertheless, some results are beginning to be seen, and it isevident that some things could have been carried out more effectively.
To date, the two most acknowledged benefits of The U of M informationstrategy would be the establishment of an institution-wide ITstrategic planning and management process and the developmentof the IT governance structure. Both already have been and willcontinue to be modified to better serve the university; but bothhave also been critical for us to be able to the list of accomplishmentsreferenced on page eight of this report.
In addition to the items previously listed, the following positivechanges have resulted: (1) the IS Division has made recognizedprogress toward its goal of changing organizational culture tobe more characteristic of that of a learning organization; (2)more than a dozen local support provider IT positions have beenidentified or created in academic and administrative units withinthe last year; (3) a number of cross-functional decision makingactivities and groups focused on IT or information issues has beeninitiated; (4) each major academic or administrative unit developsits own annual IT plan in conjunction with the development ofthe university plan; (5) the senior administration has focusedmore on strategic information issues and is better informed; (6)discussion and debate concerning information issues is more focusedand far broader based; and (7) the need for more lateral and lessvertical IT decision making is being endorsed by growing numbers. (See http://www.memphis.edu/ispages/annual/annreport2.pdf.)
No monumental failures have yet occurred but some mistakes orerrors in judgement are evident. The most significant may relateto the emphasis placed on needed change in presenting the newmethodology for implementation of the new administrative strategy system. This was done without the appropriate verbal recognitionof the effort, dedication, and sacrifice by those who had primaryresponsibility for implementation of the existing system. Thisled to a great deal more initial resistance to the different methodologythan should have resulted. Consequently, it took far longer tobegin the implementation process than was anticipated and theability to build trust was significantly delayed.
The next identified mistake was quite probably related to theone just described. The executive officers of the institutiondid not deal in sufficient depth and with resolve to find commonground regarding internal differences among themselves beforesimilar discussions by other groups escalated. Therefore, a discernmentof an even larger difference of perception than was reality wasperpetuated. This led to the necessity for a statement to be issuedby the president to define the agreed upon common ground of theuniversity strategy.
Initially, operating guidelines for members of the IT Policy Councilwere not spelled out in sufficient detail. Thus, some memberscame to have very different perspectives of their individual rolesand of the role of the Council in general than was envisionedby the President and the CIO when it was created. A survey ofmembers followed by a retreat where varying opinions were expressed,culminating with further discussions of a draft of detailed guidelinesbefore the formal document was issued was required to overcomethis problem.
Some underlying issues can be identified and others are almostcertainly yet to surface before the project is completed. Thedegree of trust needed to make good lateral decisions betweendifferent functional units is not yet at a level that will eventuallybe required. It is hoped that experiences gained in the cross-functionaldecision making teams will help in this regard and there are significant indications that this is occurring. Real progress has been made, at The Executive Officer and senior administrative levels of the university in gaining the general university-wide systems perspectiveneeded to ensure that the information strategy will be reasonablyuniformly implemented across all units. Continued individual andjoint discussions with the CIO will proceed to help ensure that progress will continue. The desire and dedicated discipline needed to define and carry out time bounded project plans has not been part of the campus IT culture and has yet to be demonstrated. The U of M is relyingon improvements in methodology brought by system development group and outside consultants to help realize this need.
The most serious unintended consequence to date has centered ona decision to outsource the Systems Development unit to SCT. Thedecision was made based on needs for extensive retraining of thestaff, a limited timeframe for implementation, a requirement forsome completely different skills than those available, and theapplication of strong project management methodology. The approvalfor the outsourcing contract required consent by officials twolevels above the campus administration and an exception to someexisting practice. Obtaining the consent was not possible untilthe contract was completely drafted in final form; therefore,it took several months from the time the concept was first raiseduntil the agreement was finalized. Consequently, due to the pressingimplementation timeframe employees who were impacted were notifiedof the decision at the time of its execution. Many were very upsetthat they had not been included in the discussion that led tothe decision and others on campus were also bothered by what theyfelt to be an inappropriate decision-making process. The consequenceswere lost trust requiring time to recover and further delay inmoving ahead with immediate training for the Systems Developmentstaff.
Surprises included both positive and negative elements. Some campusentities seemed to have less belief up front that there wouldbe meaningful consequences from the development of an IT strategicplanning and management process than had been true in two priorexperiences by the CIO. As a result the seriousness of the processby certain key administrators was not stressed as much as wasinitially expected. On the positive side, the willingness of theIS staff to engage, learn the methodology, and meaningfully contributeto the strategic planning and management process was better thanexpected.
Three campus-wide needs have become evident sooner than might have otherwise been true as the information strategy has begun to be implemented. The Human Resources Department has recognized and is moving to address the need for an IT career path across the campus rather than just within the IS Division. The need for a training program that addresses a campus-wide necessity for IT oriented student workers has been acknowledged. The Client Services Unit in IS has developed such a program and delivered the first weeklong training session to IS student workers. This program will be opened to all IT related student workers across campus in the summer semester and will then be offered twice a year thereafter. Finally, the Deans recognized the need for a very close partnership between Academic Affairs and IS in the development and implementation of IT projects that impact academic strategy. They requested that processes be defined that would lead to both Academic Affairs and IS presenting and lobbying for a common strategy for all academic IT projects. In response, the President, Provost, and VP/CIO have put into place several initiatives to ensure that occurs. First, the Provost and VP/CIO meet regularly to discuss all IT projects or issues that relate to academic areas. Secondly, the AVPIS and Vice Provost meet regularly to develop broad based strategies and plans to address such issues or projects. Third, the AVPIS meets on a regular basis with the Deans to provide them with general information, to solicit their input on specific issues, and to assist them in prioritizing the recommended expenditure of certain TAF funds for college and school based projects. Finally, the AVPIS has formed an infrastructure planning group consisting of selected IS managers or technicians and representatives from academic areas to discuss, design, and make recommendations to appropriate IT committees regarding changes to the infrastructure.
Also emerging from the discussions that led to the just listed actions, was a decision by the President to enlarge the IT Policy and Planning Council to include all Deans and Vice Presidents. This ensures that all players necessary to see that IT policy and planning decisions are carried out, once the Council decides them, are members of the Council.
F. Lessons Learned
Advice to Others.
Institutions interested in IT governance and strategic planningshould carefully study successful examples in colleges or universitiessimilar to their own. Formal models for strategic planning areavailable and the selection of such a model to be utilized issuggested. Once a governance structure and process and strategicplanning model has been identified, it is extremely importantthat both be adapted to the institutional setting, climate,culture, and existing decision-making processes rather than beadopted “as is” from elsewhere.
Participative IT governance structure and strategic planning processesrequire assigned resources to provide appropriate facilitationand coordination, and significant time commitments from a broad-basedclient community. It is therefore important to ensure that thesenior administration understands and supports the effort fromthe beginning. Without such support it is highly unlikely thatthe undertaking would succeed.
Processes for refinement and modification should be carefullyspelled out before beginning. No matter how experienced the administratorcharged with implementing governance and strategic planning processes,no matter how much prior study the institution exerts, neededchanges will be identified and must be made in a timely fashionif the processes ultimately are to succeed. Several examples of this have been given in this study.
The importance of creating and nurturing communication channels to all institutional segments at every level cannot be over emphasized. Administrators are seldom criticized for providing too much information about process that bring wide spread change. They are, however, often rightly criticized for failing to alert individuals who are impacted before the change process begins. Without question the implementation of information strategies will create change throughout the organization.
Finally, information strategy has such an impact upon the entire institution that it is imperative to have Executive Officer understanding and support, but that alone is not enough. Additionally, support bases and “champions” need to exist at every level of the organization. Developing processes that enable this to happen and nurture ongoing growth are of great importance.
Advice to Self…Plans for Change
The “Results” section of this paper identifiesa number of things that would be done differently if they couldbe repeated. Certainly clear appreciation of long time staff fortheir past performance must be readily forth coming.
Care always must be taken to ensure that apparent agreement is not just atactic to avoid a potential conflict of perspectives. The moresenior the position the more certain one may need to be that thereis both understanding and agreement before moving boldly ahead,especially with initiatives that will bring significant change.
It is very important, however, to recognize that if an informationstrategy is designed to move an institution to any level of ITleadership – peer, regional, or national – it is necessary tohave processes that permit forward movement when a critical massof support exists. To wait until consensus might develop willalmost surely preclude the ability to achieve leadership.
G. Other Comments
To date, in this project, there have been no surprisesof an extent that would cause wide spread alarm of an impendingfailure. That is not to say that all has gone smoothly up to thispoint or that it is expected that the major challenges are behindus. Sometimes predictable, other times completely unforeseen eventshave occurred and it is fully known that they will continue tooccur. With that caveat as a backdrop, it is appropriate to review the stated objectives of this study.
- To identify “best information practices” at other institutions which might be adapted for The University of Memphis. The information sharing sessions with other participants were most useful in this regard. Practices and methodology utilized by others were identified and brought back for adaptation at The U of M.
- To share with other institutions successful information strategies and ideas that are utilized here. This was accomplished at the above referenced information sharing sessions for IWIS participants, at a CNI conference, and at the National CAUSE Conference.
- To formally document advantages and shortcomings of the IT governance structure with respect to decision-making and implementation concerning strategic initiatives at The U of M. This document represents a major effort in accomplishing the objective.
- To seek new and innovative ways to develop and successfully implement information strategies that furthers the mission of the institution. As a result of involvement in the study several modifications, previously discussed, were put into place that are believed to be of benefit.
- To continue to modify and improve the IT strategic planning process at the university. Aspects of the process have been formally clarified, additional measures have been instituted to ensure appropriate academic involvement and coordinated Information Systems and Academic Affairs lobbying on behalf of academic IT needs, and the IT Policy and Planning Council membership has been enlarged to ensure better understanding and decision-making.
Involvement in the CNI IWIS project has prompted The University of Memphis to reflect in prescribed ways about our information strategies that probably would not have occurred without our participation. We have, without doubt and as documented, gained from the experience and have made changes in strategy and methodology that hopefully will enable us to better accomplish our stated longer-term goals. It is our hope and desire that others that read this study might find something that could be useful in their own environment. With that end in mind a fitting close to this study is a paraphrased list of rules of thumb for organizational transformation, taken from Sauer, Yetton, and associates, Steps to the Future, Jossey-Bass 1997.
- Choose your own path to information based organizational transformation.
- Choose your path according to your existing competencies.
- Select each step so that the change is reinforced by performance.
- Develop the change management skills of key IT and other information professionals.
- Break down the barriers. Embed IT in academic and administrative decision making.
- Develop the full range of IT and information management competencies.
- Develop new competencies from the old.
- Develop the new competencies early by innovating from the bottom up.
- Limit the risk to a few steps at a time, one at a time if possible.
- Adopt a bias for action; learn lessons by doing.
- Engage in negotiation and political bargaining to ensure success.
- Recognize and seize opportunities.